Monday, September 16, 2013

Lost in Translation

So my friend Kate and I were walking around Munich a few weeks ago and saw not one, but two young adults in t-shirts emblazoned with the words F*CK YOU! The first time I was rendered temporarily speechless, and the second time Kate and I cracked up and I said something like, “Well, that was unfriendly.” Even though America exports a lot of F-bombs via our movies and music (sorry, world) and you can hardly blame these kids because English isn’t their first language, when you see this sentiment coming straight at you on a t-shirt, you realize that some things get lost in translation.

And then Kate, who has lived in Germany with her family for a year and a half, told me the tale of the salty-mouthed Danish kids at the international school our boys attend.

It so happened last year that several of the Danish kids in the primary school were using the F-word—cheerfully and with gusto!— as a regular part of speech. Even though words like “shit” and “crap” and I would guess even “stupid” are verboten, as they are in most schools, these Danish cuties were carrying on like little towheaded Eddie Murphies. The other kids were mystified at the rampant use of this cuss word, and the teachers and other parents at Munich International School, which is kind of a high-class joint, were scandalized. Apparently, the principal of the junior school had a friendly but direct conference with the parents of the kids, which cleared up the issue for the most part, and that was that.

I find the whole cussing-Danish-kids episode hilarious, and perplexing. I mean, why the Danes? The only Dane I know back home in Laguna Beach has been known, at times, to swear like a sailor (Viggo, that would be you!) But he is a sailor. He races his sailboat on the weekends, and really, he doesn’t drop more F-bombs than the average patron of Jean Paul’s, my morning coffee place when I’m stateside. So this supposed Danish propensity for F-bombs remains a mystery to me. 


  1. Haha...reminds me of my friend in Japan who thought f*ck you! was a funny thing to say to a friend because the laugh tracks went nuts when Eddie Murphy said it. Poor Danes...

  2. Not just Danish schools, Sarah... You should hear my Dutch high school students. I do my bit by kicking them out and making them re-enter with a fabulous form of apology (along the lines of "I'm sorry, Ms. Stout, for my atrocious vocabulary" or "I apologize, Ms Stout, for my utter lack of respect towards your language..."), but it cannot be stopped. I have a couple of thoughts on the matter... Thought one, you hit upon: our own movies / tv shows / etc.. They must think we ALL use the F* bomb. Thought two: a bit like when I studied in London and found the word "bugger" amusing... Even when I heard what it meant. It just never, ever felt like a swear word. Hard to take it seriously... Anyway. Keep enjoying your time on this side of the puddle...!!